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Camden Underworld, London 24 February 2011

New Device, photo by Dawn Irwin

In my A level Economics classes, I was always told there is no such thing as a free lunch, but what about a free gig? Well, in an imaginative gesture to kick start the fledgling careers of four of their hopefuls, Powerage Records, Classic Rock magazine's record label venture, put them on a nationwide tour with the punters only needing to stump up beer money.

Part of the reason for this initiative is that I imagine it is harder for new bands to attract attention in a genre such as classic rock, with a predominantly older audience following long-established bands.

However the London show was well attended with the Underworld at one stage about three-quarters full, although many seemed to be friends and family there for one band.

Million Dollar Reload, photo by Dawn Irwin

It was a showcase style gig with each of the three opening bands only given half an hour to impress. First up were Irishmen Million Dollar Reload, with the sleazy look and style of an early Guns N Roses or LA Guns. Initially I was rather put off by the overly harsh tones of spiky haired singer Phil who seemed to be straining too hard, but once he settled I warmed to an increasingly catchy set of tunes such as Living in the City, Tattoos and Dirty Girls and Goodnight New York.

In 2011, this type of music also sounds more authentic coming from some young hungry upstarts than recovering coke addicts, addled, middle-aged former LA pretty boys.

The Treatment, photo by Dawn Irwin

The Treatment followed, the latest brainchild of Airrace guitarist Laurie Mansworth, with his son Dhani on drums. In common with predecessors Hurricane Party (later Roadstar and Heavens Basement) at the same stage of their career, for a bunch of teenagers they have an impressive self-confidence and all the right metal stage moves and poses. However, they are also a full on classic rock band inspired by the seminal sounds of the seventies.

They even conjured up in my mind the spirit of the classic Montrose debut, notably on The Doctor, Shake the Mountain and the 'Make it last'-style introduction to just Tell Me Why. Nothing to Lose but our Minds, with a chorus that could have come from David Bowie in his early 70's phase, showed that they do not need to play it by the book. A stunning introduction to a real band to watch.

Lethargy, photo by Dawn Irwin

Unfortunately, Welshmen Lethargy followed in front of a significantly thinner crowd (surely not everyone had come to see the pneumatic nurse who was staffing The Treatment's merchandise stand!)

Their musical style, darker and less commercial, owes more to nineties bands such as Alice in Chains, and has never been my bag. However friends were purring in appreciation and I found myself enjoying and admiring the lank-haired Welshmen significantly more than the previous time I saw them a couple of years ago.

There were some very Zakk Wylde-esque dirty guitar sounds and an impressive use of three lead and harmony vocals gave them a slightly different dimension. If your tastes are in a more alternative direction, I would recommend them, and I could see them going down very well at a Download or Sonisphere.

New Device, photo by Dawn Irwin

At first I was underwhelmed by headliners New Device - it wasn't just singer Daniel Leigh's un-metal haircut, but the songs such as Never Say Never and Set You on Fire seemed very basic and the sound rather thin, particularly as alone of the four bands they boasted just a single guitarist.

They rocked the ultimate cliché with a song called Pedal to the Metal, but, even if it may have been the beer talking, as the set wore on I warmed to them.

Daniel was an engaging, hard working frontman (though if I had a pound for every time he said 'Ladies and Gentlemen...') and the band were enthusiastic with Motley Crue inspired songs like the closing trio of Seven nights, Seven Bodies, Hope is Not Enough and Taking Over ultimately impressing.

There was a real surprise as the two encores, with Daniel adding acoustic guitar, showed a greater mellowness and depth - in particular during In the Fading Light it felt as if I had been transplanted into a Firefest gig.

An unexpectedly great evening with four bands representing a diversity of hard rock genres, but each giving 100%. It can have done each of the bands no harm and hopefully it gave them all a shot in the arm.

But if I was playing fantasy A and R, of all of them the Treatment are the band most likely to crack the big time.

Review by Andy Nathan

Photos by Dawn Irwin

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